Colleagues, family and friends joined Anson Marston Distinguished Professor Emeritus George Burnet Feb. 3 in Sweeney Hall to celebrate his 90th birthday. A native Iowan, Burnet was born on Jan. 30, 1924, in Fort Dodge. He has had a long and illustrious career and has been a major figure in chemical engineering at Iowa State University.
Burnet started his Iowa State career as an undergraduate in 1942. Although his studies were put on hold as he joined U.S. Army forces in the South Pacific Theater of World War II, he returned to Ames to earn his B.S. in chemical engineering in 1948. These were followed by M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Iowa State in 1949 and 1951, also in chemical engineering.
Burnet’s professional career began in 1951 at Commercial Solvents Corp. in Terre Haute, Ind., where he worked for five years. He then returned to Ames to join the chemical engineering faculty in 1956. For the next 39 years, Burnet served on the faculty at Iowa State and advocated for research and education in chemical engineering. He held various leadership posts, including national president of the American Society for Engineering Education from 1976-1977, interim dean of the Iowa State University College of Engineering, and department head of Iowa State chemical engineering from 1961-1978. He retired as Anson Marston distinguished professor emeritus in 1995.
Burnet has long been a supporter of Iowa State University. Most recently, Burnet played a key role in helping to organize the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE) Centennial Celebration. On Sept. 27, 2013, he was inducted to the CBE Alumni Hall of Fame Inaugural Class. He also co-authored the centennial’s signature publication, “The First 100 Years of Chemical Engineering at Iowa State University,” capturing moments that define Iowa State chemical engineering.
Burnet now lives in Ames. Although officially retired, he maintains an active presence in Sweeney Hall and occasionally advises on department affairs. He is a lifetime member of the Iowa State University Alumni Association and a member of the Iowa State University Foundation W. M. Beardshear Society.